By Patrick Crawford
Arkansas Media Relations
When asked about his six-yard touchdown catch earlier this season against Texas A&M, Ben Cleveland kept the explanation simple.
“It felt good,” said Cleveland, a senior tight end for the University of Arkansas football team. “It felt great. It will be one of those things I always remember.”
Cleveland played high school football just up the road from Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium at Springdale High School. With the Nov. 6 game against UTEP being his last game in Fayetteville, Cleveland reflected on his Razorback career with a smile.“It’s been great,” Cleveland said. “The whole state is behind this football team, as well as the whole athletic program. I kind of get goose bumps talking about it. It is just a great atmosphere to be around. That’s one of the things that made me originally want to come here.”
The Razorback tight end’s high school days are long behind him, he noted. Cleveland has been a mainstay within the UA tight ends unit since his first season at Arkansas in 2006, routinely on the field showing his tenacity. Cleveland noted that the touchdown grab in Arlington, Texas, was special for another reason. He has returned to action after sitting out the entire 2007 season due to injury.
“It had been awhile since I was really able to just go out there and play since my injury,” Cleveland said. “Going down there to Dallas to play Texas A&M in a state-of-the-art facility like Cowboys Stadium, that’s something that no one can take away. It felt really great to be able to do that and contribute for the team.”
Cleveland showed grit fighting back to the playing field, explaining that one thing head coach Bobby Petrino has taught the Razorbacks is to be tough.“A whole lot of toughness,” Cleveland said. “One of the things Coach Petrino teaches us is toughness. As you come to practice, he says it maybe 30 or 40 times. ‘Be tough. I want you guys to be tough.’”
Though Cleveland keeps it straight-forward on the football field with focus and effort, he knows Coach Petrino has more than just the gridiron in mind. Cleveland has seen the entire Arkansas team achieve in the classroom under Coach Petrino.
“He’s taught us how to carry ourselves on and off the field,” Cleveland said. “He makes our work in the classroom the main focus. He has said ‘You are a student-athlete. Not just an athlete.’”Cleveland, majoring in kinesiology, has plans to keep football a part of his life.
“Plans are plans; you need to have a few of them,” Cleveland said. “I’m going to train with football longer and see if there are a few options there. But I’ll see if there isn’t a college job and do some coaching. Ultimately, I could see myself staying in Northwest Arkansas and getting into some high school coaching.”
If Cleveland were to find his way into coaching, his first teaching point for his pupils might be borrowed from Coach Petrino. The Razorbacks will work to show their toughness Saturday against the Miners inside Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium.